Leading In The 21st Century - Grooming The Next-Generation Of Leaders

One of the primary concerns and ever-increasing global challenges of the 21st century is finding and nurturing future leaders and technology talents. Many world leaders, leadership scholars, business gurus and mentors express concern about the need for developing, training or grooming the future leaders. The emerging younger generation lives in a world that is going through vast shifts – scholars are calling it "postmodern." This is a world that is segmenting into antagonistic groups – racism, sexism, imperialism, homophobia, tribalism, terrorism, and ethnic cleansing. These thorny social issues are splitting the world apart.

The United States and European Union are now divided by a culture of fear and uncertainty, while Asia displays a culture of hope; the Middles East- Muslim world is trapped in a culture of humiliation, and revolution, while Africa is trapped in a culture of corruption and bad leadership. So, we see a world of continuing conflict between ideologies, races and classes. Paradoxically, as conflict divides our world, scientific progress and technology innovation is linking people and nations together through social media such as face book, text messages, twitter, etc. The more we communicate through these innovative means, the more we create a hellish world. It is also a world in which about 60% of the world population is under 30 years. Mexico City alone has a population of young people less than 30 years that is equal to the population of New York City.

Many leadership experts argue that the greatest need of the 21st century will not be doctors, MBA's, lawyers, educationists, religious leaders, farmers, accountants, sports, entertainers or even IT professionals but leaders. The greatest need of this century will not be more oil and gas alternatives, or finding cure for cancer, HIV, and AIDS, but finding genuine and authentic leaders. There is not a doubt that the professionals and careers mentioned above have made significant contribution to our society and continues to make. However, the greatest global change in this century is nurturing people for courageous and compassionate leadership, finding men and women who are capable of bringing lasting solution to the myriad problems facing our planet through authentic, wise, courageous and compassionate leadership.

Today, there is a leadership vacuum or gap in many nations and corporations around the globe and a widespread call for a new kind of leadership is paramount. Leadership scholars urge for the kind of leadership – transformational change leadership which motivates and inspires people to action and change. Prof. Rosabeth Moss Kanter at the Advanced Leadership Initiative, Harvard University, said that, "Leadership as the ability to motivate people to take action and create change."

Studies have shown that there is inadequate supply of genuine leaders aged 55 and above. Some leaders are emerging between ages 40-54, while there is a huge gap of leaders between 24-40, very small between 18-24 and non-existent between ages 11-17.

So, few weeks ago, when President Jonathan attended a 3-day summit of the African Union (AU) at Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, while addressing the 17th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU), with the theme "Accelerating Youth Empowerment for Sustainable Development", the president said that "The youth are Africa's greatest asset." I concur with the president. He is absolutely right because the true asset of any nation is not oil, not even technology but human resources. It is estimated that there is over 700 million people 30 years and under in Africa today. There is no doubt then that the young people, the future leaders, inventors, scientists, engineers, doctors, entrepreneurs, lawyers, philosophers, poets, writers, thinkers, etc., are Africa's richest assets.

The question one must ask is this, how are the African politicians and business leaders harnessing its young manpower? I asked that question because I suspect that the cabals and crop of politicians who had been managing the affairs of our nation and continent especially for the last half century, do not seem to comprehend the fact that the youth and those yet unborn are Africa's greatest asset. Therefore, the embezzlement, money laundering and the quest to invest in Europe, America, and now Dubai with stolen public money by African leaders, particularly Nigerian leaders, rather than invest in their communities and in the lives of future generation justify that they have warped knowledge of the sacred duties of leadership.

I also have another suspicion, that the elderly politicians, former rulers – military and civil rulers of Africa, do not know how to pass the mantle of leadership, which is a key measure of authentic and great leadership. The reason I make the above statement, is because not too long ago, during the heat of the 2011 presidential campaign, the former military dictator, IBB, granted an interview to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), in which he allegedly said that there are no young people capable of governing Nigeria. IBB felt that even in his 70's he still has the where-withal, wisdom, and experience to lead Nigeria in this global digital and technology age. He does not see anyone among 150+ million Nigerians who is capable to be president. When I criticized his idiotic statement in one of my articles then, I was castigated by his stooges around the world. With all due respect to IBB as an elder, I still maintain that his interview on BBC was foolish, unwise, and unfortunate. In fact his presumptuous statement about the young people of Nigeria exposed his arrogance and ignorance. Unfortunately his belief and sentiment is held by many who are in various leadership positions in Nigeria today. Most of them are his stooges anyway.

I'm glad that president Jonathan has recognized the need and urgency to groom the young people for leadership and participation in global economy and information know-how. Since he came into power, the scourge of armed robbery, kidnapping, Niger Delta militancy and violence have been minimized. He has offered alternatives to school age children, school certificates holders and even university graduates, the opportunity to have a future, to dream, and to believe in Nigeria again. He has to find tactical means for Boko Haram sect – by dealing and negotiating directly with their sponsors. Unfortunately leading in the 21st century will require that kind of tactful negotiation with your enemies and conflict resolution skills to reach compromise for peaceful collaboration rather than competition and conflicts.

Albert Einstein once said, "I speak to everyone in the same way, whether he is the garbage man or the president of the university." I believe such dynamic, effective and bold communication skills are required for authentic and transformative leadership. Unfortunately, the young people of Nigeria are expressing their pain, frustration and anger through violence, simply because that is the language that the rulers of the Nigerian state understand. They don't understand, respect or honor civil disobedience. My frustration with the young people of Nigeria, whose dreams have been denied for so long is, why take it out on the innocent people rather than those who are indiscriminately destroying your lives and future.

The Nigerian youth must be trained, educated and prepared for 2st century leadership. The 21st century has been dubbed as "Gen–Tech." The children born in 2000 to-date are not just called "Gen-Z "or "Gen-Zombie" but "Gen-Tech," which is the name they preferred to be called. The high technology revolution – social media, wireless gadgets and broadband technologies will rule the world for major part of this century. In fact, the century will not only be a century of conflict, crisis, chaos and demand for freedom, but will be a century in war for technology talents. This century will be defined as a high tech generation. It is estimated that 75% jobs in the global job market for most nations will be technical jobs, high tech, green IT and so forth. In fact, there is now a group of high-tech scientists working on wireless electricity, which was initiated by former U.S. president, George W. Bush. The wireless power supply, when it eventually becomes a reality, will no doubt help Africa immensely like wireless handsets has done.

It is a known fact that most African countries do not have the infrastructure for old fashion wire line telephones, and so the invention of cell phones solved that communication gap and crisis in Africa. It is amazing to see that GSM hand held sets have become so rampant and widely used in Nigeria nowadays. Even some grandmothers and grandfathers have GSMs. However, despite the revolution and boom of information technology and wireless communication, Nigeria is still rated among the least in terms of number of consumers who have access to wireless devices , Internet and social media due to lack of constant power generation and widespread poverty.

The 21st century is going to be a highly technological and information age and the need to train, educate and prepare the young people of Nigeria to participate in the global economy and job market is crucial and paramount. Online survey carried out by James Crupi of leadership Concepts on Generational studies break down the accomplishments and leadership mindsets of each generation starting with the first generation of people born between 1920 and 1945.

Here is the breakdown and statistics:

  • First-generation (elders, seniors or second-world war): These are people born between 1920 and 1945, who emerged after the Second World War. They were movers and shakers, people of large dreams who exhibited strong and forceful leadership. They built great businesses and corporations.
  • Second-generation (postwar or baby bombers or busters): These are people born during the great depression between 1946 and 1964. The second generation are those now in their 50's. The first-generation did not give them many opportunities for leadership, and the second-generation leaders were by and large not prepared to take risks and be adventurous. So, they tended to become managers of their elders' vision. Perhaps, some of the first-generation leaders saw the second-generation leaders as unwelcome competitors and consequently did not develop them. This is a classic case in Nigeria since the last fifty years.
  • Third-generation (Gen-X): These were born between1965-1986. The third-generations are now moving into positions of authority and leadership in nations, business corporations and various organizations. They were part of the newer world, the first true postmodern generation. They want to lead, are tired of waiting, and are willing to take risks. Having grown up in the television age, they are information-oriented and more concerned with people than with products. As James Crupi of leadership Concepts has said, "They understand they will be leading in a post-industrial global society where information is the new wealth and people are the new products." Often cut from traditional family, community and spiritual roots, they are, "absorbed with a search for values" says James Crupi.
  • Fourth-generation leaders (Gen-Y or Millennial, Generation Gap, Net Generation, Gen Nesters, Mosaic): The Gen-nesters are people born between 1987 and 1993. They are the first techie generation; they use technology and the internet to connect with people in new and distinctive ways. Text messaging, instant messaging and email keep them in constant contact with friends. They tattoo, dyed their hairs with an untraditional color, or take body piercing. Most Nexters support gay marriage and accept interracial dating and marriage. They are less interested in government and public office. Most of them are unprepared for leadership. According to John W. Gardner, a number of other factors may also have contributed to their lack of interest in leading – such as large and complex organizations inhibiting their leadership succession or nations creating a sense of powerlessness against them. The Gen Y or Gen-Nesters think mostly about getting rich as the most important issue in their lives.
  • Fifth-generation leaders (Gen-Z – Gen-Zombie, Gen-Tech, – 2000-todate): This is a generation high-tech and world of social media, text messaging, MySpace or Facebook, twitter, instant messaging, posting comments on blogs, watching videos online and downloading music online. The Gen-Tech send text-messaging while driving, talking, running, exercising, eating and even when sleeping. They know the keyboards by heart and do not care to look the keyboard on their handsets when typing and sending text messages. They preferred to be texted than respond to phone call. They are clueless about leadership but surprisingly do have great admiration for Jesus Christ, Mahatma Gandhi, President Obama and the Pope. Leadership and spirituality are only of modest concern to the aspirations of most Gen-Techs

The above studies reflect the mindset of most Teens around the world. From the above survey results, it shows that Gen-Nesters and Gen-Techies are less interested and almost clueless about governance and political leadership; rather they are highly interested in technology and global culture. They prefer to be technology leaders. And so, the global village especially the African continent is in desperate need to groom and nurture the young for leadership. Imagine starting now to prepare and train our young people for careers in leadership; a career in which the young people can learn the skills necessary for them to serve any where in the world as leaders – a career that will help them to learn the art of listening, service and stewardship.

Careers that will help them to build character, develop courage, and have compassion for different peoples and cultures that inhabit the world. Imagine preparing the youth of Nigeria for careers in conflict management and conflict resolution, art of listening and communication, scientific research and technology and science innovation that will prepare them to make lasting impact in the world and release their God-given potential. Leadership and technology are the big careers of the future. It will be, perhaps the most rewarding professions of the 21st century. The 21st century Nigeria is in dire need of grooming the next generation of God-fearing leaders who truly understand the divine purposes of leadership.

Dr. C. Kingston Ekeke is a theologian, author, and IT consultant and leadership scholar.



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